warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Retro Tech: A New Take On Old Electronics

Lisa Rau |
October 5, 2010 | 11:59 p.m. PDT


The Brave Little Toaster, circa pre-90s awesomeness. Lessons learned? Never piss off an air conditioner.
The Brave Little Toaster, circa pre-90s awesomeness. Lessons learned? Never piss off an air conditioner.

New gadgets and apps stir the masses like no teenybopper concert can.

More than half a million people pre-ordered the iPhone 4 as thousands more camped out on sidewalks outside Apple stores across the world. News about insignificant changes in Facebook-land generate more articles than the midterm elections. And if you wanna talk obscure, the new iTunes icon even gave life (life, I say!) to a confrontational curmudgeon of a Twitter personality, dropping F bombs whenever Steve Jobs does something badass and unverified.

So it's refreshing when humble technologies from older eras find their way back to relevancy.

L.A.'s Echo Park community is home to lots of vintage havens, from the best boots in town to creepy used-lingerie.

But a new mom-and-pop-type sprouted up a few months ago, after a local couple decided to move their decades-past electronic orphanage into the limelight. Literally, the shop is painted lime green.

The move was a personal one. The previous business in the lot sold wedding dresses, and the mom end of the operation bought her gown there years ago.

Warm and inviting as they are, the Carpinteyros of REWIND, Echo Park, let Neon Tommy poke around their shop while a record player got some tender lovin' care.

Move over, Best Buy. Retro tech is alive and kicking.

Okay, refurbished electronics aren't moving mountains, but nostalgia is no small contender. It took the Jaws of Life to pry my Nokia 3310 from my clammy hands. Snake II was way ahead of its time.

REWIND's Oscar and Jen not only keep well-crafted old gems in their shop for sale, but they fix whatever customers throw at them and always keep an eye out for abandoned quality pieces.

Among the array, a few stand out:

  • Jen’s old typewriter, a Coronet Electric. It's doubtful that your old MacBook will one day morph into a stylish talking piece on your decorative shelf, because these keys took elbow grease.

  • Zenith AM/FM tube radio. A remnant of fine craft, they also offer mint-condition rectangle boom boxes in case you ever have a John Cusack moment.

  • Magnavox VHS HQ over-the-shoulder camera, a staple of Saved By the Bell-era Little League baseball games and Christmas pageants. Not so practical today, but let's be honest. Sliding that huge honking VHS tape into the camcorder's mouth felt powerful.

REWIND and its customers aren't alone in their appreciation of abandoned-but-useful machines.

Some creative minds put old, but still good, gear to greater use. 

Such masterminds would include L.A.'s Mister Jalopy, a multi-talented artist/welder/inventor/designer/everything-er who repurposes old equipment all the time. Studio 360 did a nice profile of the man who builds "elegant contraptions out of the junk he finds at garage sales."

Online refurbished gear dealers sell older models of current tech, but shops like REWIND buy pieces one at a time, better guaranteeing quality. Oscar encourages customers to request specific items, no matter how obscure. Because if they don't already have it at their homestead warehouse, they can probably find it.

Personal service can't compete with any amount of frenzy caused by some new gadget release, no matter how you spin it.

The Brave Little Toaster would be proud.

Reach columnist Lisa Rau here.

Follow her on Twitter: @LisaRau



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.